One hundred years from now the great lesson of the past 60 years of violence between Palestinian’s and Israeli’s will be brutally simple: violence begets violence. For when that simple truth is forgotten (or ignored), violence becomes the only language that is understood. Violence becomes the dialogue and thus the reason for fighting at all. The original reason for the conflict fades away, seemingly unimportant. History is fraught with similar examples. Chris Hedges refers to it as “the language of death“.
It has reached the point where the hypocrisy of both sides claiming the moral high ground while also killing each other at the drop of a hat has become both glaringly obvious and appalling. It’s also obvious after 60 years that war is not going to bring about peace in the region.
Sadly, it’s very hard to not look at Israel as the more powerful aggressor and the Palestinian’s and Hamas as the underdog and oppressed, simply by virtue of the circumstances. Israel holds most of the face cards. (Please bare in mind that I”m in no way stating that the actions of Hamas are justified, but rather, that the line between the two sides has become blurred and, history will show, moot at this juncture.) As Glenn Greenwald points out responding to Israel’s comments that the military campaign in Gaza may be escalated and the dropping of leaflets “warning” the Gazan population of impending military actions:
It’s hard to imagine, short of full-on indiscriminate civilian bombing, how this attack can be “escalated.” Is there any limit at all to the number of civilian deaths that Israel is willing to cause? And, given that Palestinians are not allowed to leave Gaza and have no safe haven within the Gaza Strip, what is the point of dropping leaflets warning the civilian population of “escalation” other than, as Moyers put it, to sow further terror?
They can’t leave, even if they wanted to leave. And, there is a higher and much more historically unkind reality at work here: children are dying. Trapped like fish in a barrel. There’s no other atrocity that is higher on the historical scale than the murder of innocent children. Alas, it’s an atrocity that due to it’s horrific nature, for some reason often goes undiscussed and unnoticed until years later. It’s as if the horror is too difficult to deal with at the moment of it’s occurrence. Often our moral clarity on these matters is shrouded in apathy and economic and political hubris. As Mark at motormanmark.com notes:
On the eve of World War II, perhaps what we consider to be our most virtuous endeavor, when Nazi values first reached our shores, they were celebrated by many of our citizens. It wasn’t the moral crisis of German anti-Semitism that brought us into the war, but the threat that our power would be eclipsed.
As we participated in more wars, the killing of civilians became more and more acceptable, taking a larger and larger share of the civilian-to-soldier-deaths ratio.
Revisit the calm resolve with which we carpet-bombed Vietnamese civilians.Four million civilians died during that 12-year war, our attempt to pre-empt the feared (but still as yet unfound) domino affect of communism.
After the Mai-Lai massacres, President Nixon can be heard on his Oval Office tapes discussing the matter with Kissinger. The deed they are referring to is Mai-Lai. The person they are referring to is Maj. Wm. Calley, murderer of 109 civilians:
Kissinger: That’s right. What they (the anti-war protesters) wanted (as a reaction from the public to the Mai-Lai revelations) was a feeling of revulsion against the deed. In fact, the deed itself didn’t bother anybody.
President Nixon: No, they, matter of fact, the people said, “Sure, he was guilty, but by God, why not?” (Both laugh.)
We don’t know what Bush said in private about the US slaughter of civilians at Haditha, but we do know he and his military did not find the lives of the children killed by their invasion of Iraq worthy of even being counted.
When Israel bombed Lebanon pre-emptively during the summer of 2006 (purposely targeting civilian areas) with US-made cluster bombs–sort of a mini-Iraq invasion—which they excused as a response to the Hezbollah kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers–UNICEF counted the children who died in the murderous hail. The number was 357.
How obvious has it become that real atrocities are underway in Gaza? The conservative Wall Street Journal feels strongly enough about it to publish an Op-Ed with the very unambiguous title: Israel Is Committing War Crimes … Hamas’s violations are no justification for Israel’s actions. Not very subtle.
News of the deaths of children in Gaza is slow to emerge, so public outrage and awareness is at a low level. Full censorship is being enforced in Gaza by the IDF, as is intimidation of the few journalists who are there. And, the United Nations is looking into alleged war crimes in regard to pecific incidents in Gaza.
The moral ground is very shaky here for Israel, if it exists at all any more. They have become that which they fought against. Has Israel come full circle in it’s zeal and passion to defend itself from all those who would do them harm? How far can a society go in fighting terror until it becomes a terrorist itself?
Over at Truth Dig, in an article titled “Why Do So Few Speak Up for Gaza?”, Robert Sheer writes:
The high moral claim of the Israeli occupation rests not on the objective reality of a Palestinian threat to Israel’s survival, but rather on the non sequitur cry that “never again” should harm come to Jews as it did in Central Europe seven decades ago.
The basic argument is that Palestinian terrorists represented by Hamas are given to an irrational hatred of Jews so profound that it invalidates their movement, even when they win elections. That was not the view of the Israeli security service when it earlier supported Hamas as the alternative to the then dreaded PLO. Also, history is replete with examples of terrorists becoming statesmen, even within the early ranks of Jews fighting to establish the state of Israel.
One of those was Menachem Begin, who went on to be an elected leader of the new state. But before Begin attained that respectability, back in 1948 when he visited the United States, a group of prominent Jewish intellectuals including Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook and Hannah Arendt wrote a letter to The New York Times warning that Begin was a former leader of the “Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.” The letter urged Jews to shun Begin, arguing, “It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.”
Begin’s new party was then participating in the Israeli election, and Einstein and his colleagues, many of whom like the physicist had been victims of German fascism, stated, “Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character.”
Those actions were then detailed in the letter. They included the systematic terrorizing of innocent Palestinian men, women and children in an effort to force them to flee the territory that Begin’s party claimed for the new state of Israel.
Clearly Begin and his political heirs, who include Benjamin Netanyahu, the most likely victor in the next Israeli election, evolved in their behavior. But I bring it up now to highlight the one-sided reporting of the current phase of this interminable conflict and to wonder: Where are the voices that reflect the uncompromising morality of Einstein’s generation of Jewish intellectuals willing to acknowledge fault and humanity on both sides of the political equation?
Unfortunately, those voices and the discussion have been threatened into silence by the great fallacious tactic: If you criticize Israel for it’s policy, you are antisemitic. It’s rubbish of course, but it works quite well to deflect any and all criticism of Israeli policy. It also chokes off all too needed discussion and basic diplomatic process. And, the unlimited power of hatred should never be underestimated. It allows for an entire spectrum of rationalization of inhumane ideas and practices that one would not wish upon themselves.
In many ways, it was inevitable. When Israel headed down the path of military dominance, the only end result of such a paradigm is alienation, condemnation and eventually destruction. In the history of the entire world there has never been a military power that has not collapsed, either from within by its own weight, or from outside by defeat. This isn’t to say that Israel should not defend itself. But the manner in which they do so needs to change.
Hard and strident diplomacy and economic reform needs to be put into place. The military solution simply isn’t going to produce a peaceful result. That money would be better spent on social needs in Gaza. Why is Hamas left to be the only one building schools and roads and water supply in Gaza and elsewhere? (This applies to Hezbollah in Lebanon as well.) As steadfastly committed as the Israeli’s are to their safety, liberty and right to exist, (rightfully so) the Palestinian’s are equally steadfast in their desire for the same, as well as to obtain what the Israeli’s fought for and already have: a free state. A homeland.
The Palestinian’s are not going to give up, ever, just as the Israeli’s are not going to give up. And, the idea of one side destroying the other is ridiculous and obscene, of course.
The era of arrogant posturing and bully pulpit politics has been proven to be a rousing failure. It only enables others in the Middle East to step in and take control. And, one has to ask: Is it in any one of the major players financial interests to end such a lucrative military standoff? Unlikely.
“This war needs to move immediately to the diplomatic track and agreements that will end the fantasies and delusions of both sides.”
Let’s hope sanity prevails.